Retail market update Autumn 2023

A modern floor with legs of a crowd in the background

The retail environment remains challenging.

The rising cost of living, and recent disappointing weather have led to a further tick down in overall sales.

Yet at the same time, there hasn’t been a sharp deterioration, and this may be partly attributed to the partial recovery in consumer sentiment since the beginning of the year, even with all the economic challenges. The GFK consumer sentiment index is currently at -25. This is still in negative territory, but marks a notable rise from -47 in January.

Retail sales index - Cluttons commercial market update autumn 2023


Demand is rising for retail space. Footfall has risen since the pandemic, and this has driven an increase in demand for retail space in the last few quarters, acting as a stabiliser to vacancy rates which rose sharply between 2020 and 2022 as consecutive lockdowns and Covid-19 restrictions led to store closures.

The UK vacancy rate is at 2.9%, although this rises to 5.3% for shopping centres. In London, the vacancy rate is 2.6% as take-up reached a 12-month high in Q2 2023. This was underpinned by luxury brands upgrading to new stores, and experiential retailers moving to fill space left by more traditional retailers. The return of tourists to the capital also bolstered demand. But further out from the luxury retail hubs, the rising cost of living is impacting consumer demand, and some retailers are continuing consolidation plans, which will limit demand for retail space, and put downward pressure on rents.

Retail rents have declined before and since the pandemic, but the scale of the declines has eased over the last 12 months. Rental declines have been most notable in shopping centres, with an average 27% fall in rents since 2018 and they continue to edge downwards. Rents have also fallen on underperforming high streets. Even the most prime retail spots have not been immune, with average rents in Bond Street and Oxford Street in London down 30% since the start of the pandemic, according to CoStar.

The cost-of-living crisis may put more downward pressure on rents over the next year, but this will in some way be limited by very tight supply. In some cases, supply is being taken out of the market as retail is redeveloped for alternate uses, such as residential or co-working. Fenwick on London’s New Bond street will be redeveloped as a mixed-use asset.

As the economy starts to recover next year and into 2025, average rental growth will edge back into positive territory, showing very modest rises. The benefits for the retail sector as a result of business rates reliefs may mean rents are more sustainable in the medium term, especially among the larger retailers who will benefit the most.

Retail space where rents have become very competitive could also start to outperform. In-town shopping centres will continue to be challenged on rents however, as working from home and online shopping combine to impact footfall and demand.

Investment volumes were muted in Q2. The continued fall in retail sales and rising cost of living has acted as a drag on investment activity after a busy start to 2022. The market has been characterised by several large supermarket transactions. In London, investment activity tailed off in Q2, but there will still be interest from investors looking for safe-havens in prime retail assets, or for redevelopment plays. Investment volumes are also muted in Manchester.

Yields have softened since the middle of last year, but have stabilised in the last few months, and will stay static through the rest of the year. The slide in capital values last year, a decrease of some 14%, has largely come to an end, with capital values down just 1% in the H1, according to Capital Economics. Looking ahead to positive rental growth in 2025/26, this will lift capital growth, and will push up total returns from around 5.8% this year.

Retail completions UK - Cluttons commercial market update autumn 2023

Retail rental growth - Cluttons commercial market update autumn 2023

Retail yields vs 10 yr bond to end Q2 - Cluttons commercial market update autumn 2023


Retail: Key investment transactions

Property addressLocationDateBuilding size sq ftYield (%)Sale price (£)Buyer
32-33 Old Bond W1LondonQ2 202314,5093.2%£105mThe Swatch Group
31-51 Liverpool N1 (Sainsburys)LondonQ3 202367,4264.1%£56.3DTZ Investors
36-42 Kings Road SW3LondonQ1 20238,7623.7%£36mCadogan Estates  
641 Hyde Road M12ManchesterQ2 202352,8426.3%£4.5mBuccleuch Property
Mill Wood Drive (Tesco)WorcesterQ2 202347,3976.0%£38.3mSupermarket Income REIT
Source: Cluttons, CoStar

Key statistics

Retail: Data to end Q2 2023 unless otherwise stated General retail
 Current quarter
(last quarter / 5yr ave)
Occupier 
Availability rate (%)3.22% (3.27%/4.0%)
Vacancy rate (%)2.9% (3.1%/2.7%)
Rental growth (12-month growth rate)0.0%
(0.2%/-3.6%)
Quarterly take up (sqft)3.6m sqft
(4.2m/5.2m)
Supply 
Completions (gross delivered sqft)501,000 (819,000/1.7m)
Total under construction (sqft) 5.2m sqft
(5.9m/8.7m)
Investment 
Quarterly sales volume £m £1.2bn (£2.3bn/2.2bn)
Average initial yield %*6.5%
(6.5%/6.3%)
Prime Town High Street yield % August 2023 (Q2 2023)6.75% (6.5% – 6.75%)
Source: Cluttons, CoStar, MSCI All Retail

The information provided in this report is the sole property of Cluttons LLP and provides basic information and not legal advice. It must not be copied, reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, either in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of Cluttons LLP. The information contained in this report has been obtained from sources generally regarded to be reliable. However, no representation is made, or warranty given, in respect of the accuracy of this information. Cluttons LLP does not accept any liability in negligence or otherwise for any loss or damage suffered by any party resulting from reliance on this publication.

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Gráinne Gilmore, director of research & insights, Cluttons

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